Computer Networks Comparison Between LAN & WAN

When setting up the wireless router at home, you may notice that there are different ports at the back of router noted with LAN or WAN. If you are totally new to this, then understanding the differences between LAN and WAN technologies is fairly important. This article will solve your confusion about these network terms.


What Is LAN?

LAN is the abbreviation of local area network. As a simple and original network, LAN is widely used in different kinds of places for short range computer connections. It is a computer network built within a restricted area. LAN network has its own network devices and local interconnections. Applications of LAN can always be found in the residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office. All the computers are linked in the same general location. A local area network is considered to be private and maintained by a single group of people.

local area network

What Is WAN?

WAN refers to wide area network. It is a computer network with a large geographical coverage. The essence of WAN is to allow a network to be carried out without the limitation of location. The Internet that we use every day is a good example of WAN network. As its name suggests, WAN is very wide that can across a town, a region, a country or even the whole world. It is often used by business and government agencies to make strong network communication among employees, clients, supplier and buyers from various parts of the world.

wide area network

Differences Between LAN & WAN

Here are some major differences between LAN and WAN computer networks.

  • Point 1, cover ranges of LAN and WAN networks are different. LAN connects computers in a small physical area, while WAN connects larger areas situated in different geographical locations.
  • Point 2, network speeds of LAN and WAN are varied. WAN is typically slower than LAN due to the distance data must travel. The maximum speed of LAN is 1000 Mbps while WAN can only reach 150 Mbps.
  • Point 3, as for the security level, LAN seems to be better than WAN. Because WAN involves more people into the interconnection, there is a greater possibility of network issues.
  • Point 4, due to the smaller network coverage, setup and maintenance costs for LAN are usually lower than WAN.
Other Computer Network Types

Apart from the common LAN and WAN computer networks, there are also many other types.

WLAN: wireless local area network is a type of LAN that uses wireless technology to connect computers or devices to the router.

MAN: metropolitan area network is larger than LAN and smaller than WAN to connect nodes located in the same metro area.

SAN: storage area network provides access to consolidated, block level data storage. It does not rely on a LAN or WAN.

VPN: virtual private network help users to access a private network remotely through a virtual point-to-point connection.

EPN:enterprise private network is a computer network built by a business to interconnect its various locations to share computer resources.

PAN:personal area network is the smallest and most basic network for data transmission among personal devices.


LAN and WAN are the most widely used computer networks in today’s world. Both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. When you are confused about which network to set up, network distance is a good aspect to consider. Although LAN has many benefits, you still need to choose WAN when it comes to large areas networking.

Why Use Media Converters in LAN & MAN?

media-converterNowadays, people are widely using media converters for LAN (Local Area Networks) and MAN (Metro Area Network). As for the LAN, media converter plays an important role in combining the fiber optic cabling and active equipment with the current copper structured cabling. And in the case of MAN, media converter is also significant in conversing electrical signals into optical signals which increases the service deployment and decreases the service cost for customers. This post is going to further explain the advantages of using media converters in LAN and MAN respectively.

Advantages of Using Media Converter in LAN

At first, media converters are simple devices just used to connect two dissimilar media types such as twisted pair with fiber optic cabling. Today, category of media converters increases a lot. And the function of media converter is not single and can meet more requirements. Media converters including fiber to RJ45 converters, SFP Ethernet converters, OEO converters, mode converters, fiber video converters, etc. can be found in the market.

Copper and Fiber Conversion

Now some LAN is still structured with twisted pair wiring. As a result, the transmission distance is greatly limited with only 100 meters. To extend the data transmission distance, fiber cable gains the popularity since it can support longer transmission distance and it’s more and more inexpensive. But in practice, copper is familiar and easier to be installed. Besides, many network devices still have copper ports. It would cost too much to replace all the expensive equipment with fiber optics. So media converter is applied to realize the copper & fiber conversion with the cheapest price. Media converters make it possible to migrate a local network to fiber while maintaining the existing infrastructure.


Figure 1. 10/100Base-T to 100base-FX Single Fiber Media Converter

Speeds Conversion

When connecting legacy 10BASE-T network segments to a newer 100BASE-FX Fast Ethernet infrastructure, media converter is the best solution. With one RJ45 port and one SFP socket, this 10/100Base-T to 100base-X SFP Ethernet fiber media converter can mediate between 10/100M UTP ports and 100M optical fiber ports. And it can reduce electromagnetic interference and extend the distance up to 100 km. Media converters can support network speeds from 10 Mbps to 10 Gbps.


Figure 2.  Media Converter Connecting Different Speed
Bridging Two LANs over Fiber

Media converters are also used to expand the reach of the LAN to cover more locations. A converter can connect multiple LANs to form one large “campus area network” that spans over a limited geographic area. As premises networks are primarily copper-based, media converters can connect two distance switches with single-mode fiber and extend the reach of the LAN up to 130 km.

Saving Cost for FTTD

Existing data rate in the LAN backbone at 100Mbps or Gigabit speeds, fiber can accommodate high-bandwidth applications such as streaming media and voice over IP for more secure desktop connections. Media converters can make FTTD (fiber to the desktop) cost-effective in the LAN. With media converters, the cost of expensive fiber home which requires all-fiber switches, patch panels and network interface cards can be saved by converting in the telecommunications room and at the desktop.fttd

Figure 3.  Media Converters Make FTTD a Reality.

Advantages of Using Media Converter in MAN

Ethernet is the dominate LAN protocol with the highest market penetration. Past 10/100Mbps connections in LAN can’t meet the demands for high-speed data traffic. With the publication of the 10, 40 and 100 Gigabit Ethernet standard, the applications space for Ethernet expands from the LAN to MAN.

Maintaining Optical Circuits

Media converters are deployed in the MAN to provide the physical layer connection and to bridge the bandwidth gap that exists between LAN and MAN. In the LAN, the structured cabling is often twisted-pair copper cable or multi-mode fiber. While the cabling is often single-mode fiber in the MAN. So media converters are used at both ends of the first mile to provide the electrical-to-optical conversion from the POP (point of presence) switching router to single-mode fiber, and back to 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet at the customer premises. At the same time, if the customer needs to increase the internet speed, the bit rate can be increased through the POP switch and the converter will automatically adapt to the increased speed, avoiding a visit to the customer site or POP.

Increasing Flexibility

Media converters can realize the connections between copper switch ports and optical access to get more flexible and further. Media converters can support multiple types of media from copper to multimode and single-mode fiber. Single-mode converters cover distances up to 80 km with 1310nm optics and even 130 km with 1550 nm optics.

Media converters can also enhance the consistency of service. On one side, if there is any problem, the network administrator can troubleshoot one circuit and keep other customers’ connections running. On the contrary, if a fixed port switch goes down, all connections will be down simultaneously when repairing a faulty port. On the other side, customers can used the media converter as an optical demarcation point, which brings cost savings and simplicity.


There are many benefits of using media converter in LAN and MAN, such as copper and fiber conversion, speed conversion, cost reduction, simple network troubleshooting and so on. Media converter is not only the optical demarcation between LAN and MAN, but also the bridge between LAN and optical backbone of service provider. With such a cost-effective solution, what’s the reason not to use?